TGR: Changing the Business Trajectory for Minorities in Maryland at BWI Marshall Airport

Photo: Anthony Barnes, COO of AMAC, Sonjay Decaires (Marketing & Events Consultant), and Ricky Smith at AMAC 2019

By Doni Glover, Publisher
Unapologetically Black: Doni Glover Autobiography

(BALTIMORE – September 13, 2019) – From Day 1 in August of 2002, has been committed to advocating for Black-owned businesses. Why? Business is the backbone of any society. And those who fail to recognize this fact become stagnant and less relevant in an ever-changing global economy. To me, it’s very simple. A community, a city, a state, a country … must have viable businesses, for these businesses – as they grow – have the potential of hiring people. Employed people can then put food on their tables, pay taxes, and help strengthen the community.

Back around 2002, I recall the late Raymond V. Haysbert, Sr. (also known as “the Dean of Business”) going on and on about his new business located at BWI Airport. Truthfully, while I heard him, I didn’t hear him. I kind of stored that bit of information in the back of my brain.

Well, some 17 years later, I now get it. I mean, I really get it.

Business, in many ways, is about the numbers. If it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense.

I guess you’re asking, “Doni, where are you going with this?” Put simply, 25 million! 25 million what? More than 25 million people come thru BWI Marshall Airport every year.

Photo: Ricky Smith, CEO of BWI Marshall Airport, BET Award Winning Journalist Jeff Johnson (Keynote), and Anthony Barnes, Chief Operating Officer of the Airport Minority Advisory Council.

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) 2019 Economic Opportunity and Policy Forum at the Washington Marriott Metro Center over in the District. AMAC is a national organization with 30 plus years of service history. Members include not only airport officials, but concession owners; you know, the people with businesses set up at the airport to serve passengers. Long story short, this is an industry with a built-in audience. Tons of people visit airports across America every single year, and those travelers have needs and they spend money … in airports. Somebody is going to service them, and that should include more than just mainstream businesses. It should include everyone.

Ricky Smith, the CEO of BWI Marshall Airport, gave me an assignment to cover the AMAC Forum, and I am so glad he did. Born and raised in the Reservoir Hill section of Baltimore, Smith cut his teeth on the basketball court near John Eager Howard Recreation Center. He earned a reputation for being a clean-cut kid with the heart of a lion in what was one of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods. Over the years, it became obvious that God allowed him a wonderful set of experiences that would propel him to one of the most coveted positions in America. In other words, a young man from Brookfield and Whitelock ascended through the ranks while paying his dues, and ultimately reached one of the highest professional pinnacles ever – one never attained before by a man of color in Maryland. He is the Executive Director of the Maryland Aviation Administration.

I think the most fascinating thing about Smith is his vision. Having first met him in the mid-90s at a Black Professional Men, Inc.’s monthly meeting in Baltimore (he was a founding member), I can honestly report that he has never “switched up” on me. Further, I have personally witnessed this man help countless individuals, including entrepreneurs.

To say the least, Smith is on a mission to make a difference, and that is rare. I have seen a large number of African American professionals get in a position of influence over the years and all of a sudden become dumbfounded. I have seen many forget why God blessed them so, and consequently, they do not serve the people. Instead, it seems more like they serve themselves or a select group of elite people who really don’t need the help. Not Ricky!

Ricky Smith is a man who sees the larger picture and has figured out his own personal role in the equation. From my vantage point, he wants to see minorities do as well as the mainstream. It’s that simple! So, does he help the mainstream? He sure does. He helps everyone!

The AMAC Forum was designed for a plethora of people: Aviation, airport and transportation executives; Aviation, airport and transportation emerging leaders; Industry consultants and engineers; Marketing and business professionals; Concessions and revenue team members; Project managers and change agents; and other industry professionals seeking to expand upon their change management leadership

From the skilled leader to the emerging leader, the AMAC Forum has something for everyone, including women and minority-owned businesses, Fortune 500 companies that are industry leaders in aviation, hospitality, travel and logistics, energy, retail, transportation, telecommunications, finance and banking to name a few, as well as federal, state and local government personnel.

One attendee was Ms. Prity, a Baltimore-based entrepreneur who has been toiling for about 20 years pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams.

Photo: Ms. Prity, a certified concessionaire at BWI-Marshall Airport 

Ms. Prity, a current concessionaire at BWI Marshal, told Bmorenews, “I came so that I could learn about the opportunities and I was not disappointed.” She added, “I learned I was on the right track about certification in Maryland, but now I want to get certified in Washington, D.C.”

Her business is Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) Certified. The ACDBE Program is similar to the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program in that it is a Department of Transportation (DOT) package designed to level the playing field for small businesses who wish to participate in contracting opportunities at airports.

Ms. Prity said, “If you want a solid footing, you want to get your certification.” Granted, a business cannot afford to solely depend on government contracts. It is always wise to have multiple sources of business, both private and public.

What really blew my mind in talking with Ms. Prity was when I asked her about Ricky Smith. She replied, “Ricky is like Harriet Tubman!” Now, honestly, does that need any clarification? Tubman, who was a Marylander, was noted for her service to her brethren. She is forever a hero and a champion as well as the quintessential example of sacrifice and honor.

Ms. Prity is just one business woman, but her story is multiplied times all of the minority business owners Smith has assisted over the years. Fact is, he’s willing to give any serious business person a shot. It sounds so simple, but is yet so rare.

There’s one last thing that I must mention. I speak about it all the time. At the forum, it was so obvious. I’m talking about the beautiful blend of seasoned professionals blending with emerging leaders. Ladies and gentlemen, it was heartwarming to see two and three generations of people enjoying themselves, sharing information, and exchanging trade tips. To me, the AMAC Forum was “Black Wall Street” on steroids. I left rejuvenated and highly optimistic about what’s to come.

For me, two underlying themes were intergenerational wealth and legacy building. Throughout the conference, I kept hearing these concepts mentioned, as they should be. It is one thing to build something for yourself; it is a whole other level to build for future generations. Clearly, Black America in particular has often struggled in this area. I’m just glad to know that the demon has been identified. Even more, I am confident that it will be continuously addressed – at least by AMAC – until we, as a people, get it right!